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Monday, January 23, 2012

Using A Hotshoe Flash

When most people think of a flash, they think of the onboard camera flash: the little pop-up flash that comes with most lower-end semi-pro and consumer grade DSLRs. Unfortunately it's not the most flattering flash that you could use for your photography. When you use a pop-up flash, the light is glaring, skin tones are faded and you end up with "glowing red demon eyes". If you were shooting stills for a horror film, that would work out just perfectly. However since you're not...well...not so good.

The next photo was taken with a SB-600 hotshoe flash. Those are those fancy looking light things people stick on top of their DSLRs. We usually say that they make us look like we know what we're doing. The next shot was taken with the light pointed right at the subject (the angel on top of the tree). This is just as harsh as the "pop-up flash", although you can control the output of the hotshoe flash to make the output less harshly lit. You see sharply pronounced shadows on the wall from the flash.

The third photo has me pointing the flash output up at a 20-degree angle up from the subject, which results in the photo being less harsh than the resulting directly targeted flash. Note the shadows are more diffused.

The fourth photo has me pointing the flash output up at a 45 degree angle from the subject. Here you start to see some depth to the image and less of a harsh glare on the subject. You see much less shadow on the wall in this photo.

Indoors most photographers use a 90 degree angle to the subject when they are using a hotshoe flash. This bounces the light off the ceiling and thus diffuses it so that the shadows are nearly non-existent and the subject in the photo has some depth to it rather than being harshly lit up like the pop-up flash image. This is what is known as the ideal hot-shoe flash image.

When you are doing portraiture, weddings, or event photography, a flash (better yet, several) are an absolute necessity. Since I shoot Nikon, my choices are the SB-600 (now outdated), the SB-700 or the SB-910. I do not recommend the SB-900 since the 900 had overheating issues. These issues have been rectified with the SB-910 and it has become the best remote "commander" flash that Nikon has produced.

If you want to get away from the harsh glare photography that the pop-up flash provides, buy yourself a hotshoe flash. It's probably one (or more; depending on how many flashes you buy) of the singlemost important investments that you could ever make in your photography.

Happy Shooting.

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